Tag Archives: kidisms

The Accidental Parent

When it comes to the uncertain journey of parenting, I tend to believe that success has less to do with the desperate search for a one-size-fits-all prescriptive guide (that may or may not exist) and more to do with perceiving nuances in the landscape of our children’s lives, gathering information much like rain and trying ever so madly to adapt to the shifting terrain and impossible demands placed upon us day in and day out. To show up, to invest ourselves wholly in the process of nurturance and to do our level best—imperfect as that most assuredly is. And while I feel fairly certain of my many and varied failings as a parent, there are times during which the gods smile upon me—and I get it right, often in spite of myself. Indeed, much of what works in terms of child rearing I’ve either conveniently borrowed or stumbled into purely by happenstance.

Such was the case with the celebrated Math Hat, so named for its astonishing ability to impart both mathematical competence and never-before-seen composure in the face of frustration (i.e. that which is prompted by the inherent evil of math-related homework—or so it is perceived at times by a certain couple of somebodies presently in the fourth grade). Imagine my surprise (read: unspeakable joy) upon witnessing nothing short of a garden-variety miracle in my living room as Thing Two donned said hat in the throes of an epic meltdown (over something as asinine as arithmetic) only to emerge as a capable, composed pupil who willingly—almost gleefully—tackled the remaining problems without the suggestion of protest. It’s rumored she was smiling as well.

I’m quite sure I stood there like a buffoon, slack-mouthed and completely baffled by this seemingly fortuitous turn of events. Of course, I felt compelled to snatch the silly thing from her head in an effort to demystify that which was fairly incomprehensible to me, but I resisted. Instead I hurled a torrent of questions in her direction. “What on earth just happened?! Why aren’t you bothered PROFOUNDLY EXASPERATED by your math homework anymore?! Who are you and what have you done with my belligerent child?!” She then grinned, shrugged her shoulders and adjusted her newfound talisman. “I don’t know, Mom, but it helps me and I’m gonna call it my Math Hat (pronounced in the spirit of Aflac). Weird, isn’t it?”

Weird doesn’t begin to describe it,” I mused. Four-leaf clovers…I get. Amulets…I vaguely appreciate. The whole Feng-Shui-Chi-Yin-and-Yang thing makes a fair amount of sense to me. But the freakishly magical nature of that stupid, thrift store-inspired hat bordered on the bizarre. Clearly, it was far more impressive than any thinking cap could ever hope to be, and I was convinced that there had to be a cheerleading squad somehow stuffed inside said knitted wonder, likely shouting encouragement, praise AND ANSWERS into the waiting ears of my dear child.

Granted, I had offered the hat as a diversion—to take her mind off the dreaded task of rounding numbers and whatnot: “Stop thinking of stabbing me with your pencil…Put your pencil down and check out the funky-looking hat I picked up today for the Christmas play.” Who knew something so simple would serve as the sanity cocktail we both so desperately needed.

Logically, I was then driven to delve deeper into the notion of accidental successes, eager to lend credence to my curious findings. Translation: I Googled the tar out of the topic, uncovering a host of interesting and important discoveries that were unintentionally made. Like Post-It Notes and Super Glue, Velcro and Vaseline, blue jeans and the microwave oven. Let us not forget penicillin. Furthermore, I came across Greg Pincus, founder of The Happy Accident, another individual who embraces the serendipity effect—using social media to help create the right conditions for unexpected benefits in a variety of areas. Only then did I come to the realization that so many of my important discoveries as a parent qualify as happy accidents—including the aforementioned Math Hat.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (fetching the Math Hat on a regular basis).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Homework Hell, School Schmool, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Is There a Doctor in the House? (Continuation of “Guilty as Sin”)

Doogie Houser, MD would have been proud. From the moment Seek and Destroy laid eyes on their beloved Ken doll, helplessly sprawled out on the living room floor, our resident whiz kids snapped into action—eager to render what assistance they could in the face of such a crippling tragedy. It was a sight to behold and the epitome of teamwork. For what seemed like forever that morning, our prodigious sensations delved into the guts and gore like fearless surgeons of the 4077th M.A.S.H. unit. They were miniature paramedics—a sippy-cup-toting trauma unit with a penchant for Teddy Grahams.

Ken needed a trauma unit. He was Code Blue—thanks to me. Never mind the fact that he was a plastic doll I had inadvertently maimed the night before. It was a life or death situation—sort of. Even the next of kin—the entire Barbie gaggle—had been immediately notified of his condition. This, of course, meant that the weeping and wailing might never end. What a maudlin crew. Bunch of sissies, anyway.

The official report: Ken’s perfectly sculpted (and impeccably tanned) synthetic leg had been completely severed from the hip down. A gaping hole in the pelvis region revealed even more damage—a broken plastic hinge thingy. Translation: Ken’s pelvic thrusting days were probably over. Jogging with Skipper was out of the question, too—unless he had a miracle up his surfer shorts. His prognosis couldn’t have been much worse—unless he had been run over by a freight train full of whining pre-menopausal Barbies. Needless to say, the outlook was grim.

Doctor kits, loaded with all sorts of important-looking (albeit worn and duct-taped) equipment, were hurriedly pried from toy boxes and rushed to the scene. Initial assessments were made, Hippocratic Oaths were uttered and the patient was gingerly transported to a makeshift operating table—an overstuffed footstool. Orders were barked to a team of imaginary nurses and various instruments were splayed out in preparation for the surgery that was sure to run into the night.

In the meantime, I ran for the video camera. To seize the opportunity, of course. I know real drama when I see it. Plus, such a pioneering moment in medical history begged to be recorded for the benefit of all posterity. It was my civic duty to film history in the making.

Truth be told, I was certain I wouldn’t be able to recreate the utter hilarity for anyone once it was over. It was simply too funny for words. I had to film it. So film it I did.

“Nurse, take his blood pressure! (Shoop, shoop, shoop….) Take his temperature! (Shake, shake, shake….) Give him a shot of this stuff! (Pffssssssshhhttt!) DOCTOR, WE NEED SOME GLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUE! Something to make his leg STICK BACK ON! Oh. My. Goodness. I left my glue at the other office. What will we do now!?”

“Well Doctor, I think we need to hammer this leg a little.” (Hammer, hammer, hammer…twist, yank, prod, crank, SNAP, CRACKLE, POP!!!) “And we need a cast thingy! Right away!”

All the while, stethoscopes, syringes and imaginary glue guns flew across the OR, passed from hand to hand in a desperate attempt to save poor old Ken’s plastic-coated soul. The tension was unbearable. The wait, nerve-racking. Thankfully in the end, Ken pulled through; but despite their undying efforts, the medical wonders were unable to successfully reattach his leg.

Not to worry. The celebrated masters of make-believe have since made the best of the situation—illustrating for the 327th time this week that even a nonfunctional and seemingly worthless item/toy (and I’d daresay a particularly gruesome one at that) can become purposeful once again—providing countless hours of enjoyment.

Or sheer bliss.

Apparently, the practice of terrorizing one another with said severed limb (which includes tearing through the house at warp speed, screaming like a couple of banshees) is nearly as fun as playing with good ol’ two-legged Kensey-poo and his estrogenized harem. Almost.

It’s macabre, I know. But delightfully so methinks.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Summer’s Educational Feast

A plethora of reputable entities, educational and otherwise, have spent a good chunk of time and money prattling on about the serious nature of academic regression and whatnot, convincing great masses of parents that “the summer slide” does, in fact, exist and should be feared above all else. All seriousness aside, I’m here to proclaim otherwise. There was no slide that I could discern during the glorious months of June, July and August. Moreover, I’d daresay the summer epitomized an educational feast for my brood, as a host of new and exciting information was thrust upon us virtually every minute of every day.

Indeed, we were enlightened thusly:

Matter can, in fact, be destroyed (or at least it can come frighteningly close to doing so) when lawn mower blades make impact with errantly placed Whiffle balls and flip-flops. Physicists should take note of such remarkable findings.

Considering the coefficient of friction and the gravitational pull of the Earth, Crocs are not ideally suited for tree climbing. Likewise, and in the true spirit of experimentation, cell phones can neither swim, nor float.

With respect to Venn diagrams, not all amusement park employees are amused to be there day in and day out, collecting tickets, helping kids climb onto rides and advising patrons to keep their “hands and feet inside at all times!” In fact, most of the joy-bringers we encountered this summer fell squarely into the category of cantankerous—only to be eclipsed by the group of dolts who were disturbingly stoic. Of course, I felt the urge to slap them senseless for failing to at least ACT THE PART of being cheery and pleasant “for the good of the children.” But that would have been redundant.

Concerning the topic of animal behavior, I discovered that cats, dogs and even guinea pigs can be taught to type on a computer. Needless to say, I was duly impressed having witnessed said groundbreaking research conducted in the field.

As far as mathematical correlations go, I learned that the later kids stay up at a sleepover party, the earlier they will rise—demanding pancakes and bacon. What’s more, the average third grader will catapult out of bed ten times faster for an unplanned and unmercifully early visit from a friend who wants to ride bikes than for the regularly scheduled arrival of a school bus.

Regarding the subject of psychology, I was reminded that children can and will defy all logic and understanding. Case in point: when they emphatically reveal that the best part of a fun-filled day at an amusement park (read: a marathon-inspired excursion involving an obscene number of rides and French fries) was purchasing a $3 inflatable elephant named Bob. Similarly, the most memorable thing from attending a week’s worth of basketball camp might just have been “…drinking a whole can of Orange Crush soda so I could burp really LOUD, Mom!”

Furthermore, while field testing a variety of hypotheses recently, I learned that it is possible to become more sodden while riding the Merry Mixer during a torrential downpour than it is to opt for the Sklooosh on a dry day. Additionally, I found that it takes roughly three days for sandals to dry out after said rain. None of this, mind you, is especially troubling to the husband or to the children who insist that we “…just go on more rides!”

Some related summertime observations I made: When playing miniature golf, the probability of visiting an emergency room (and/or the dentist’s office) increases exponentially as the number of eight-year-old participants increases. Further, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to ensure that moon roofs and windows are closed overnight. Rain happens. It’s also prudent to periodically check on youngsters who might do the unthinkable (i.e. blow up ants with a magnifying glass “…because they sizzle in the sun, Mom, and then they POP!” and/or hoist the dog into the top bunk “…so he can SEE stuff up there.”) Stupidity happens. Moreover, it’s wise to inspect the hot tub for curiously abandoned thongs upon returning from vacation. Audaciousness happens.

Some interesting facts I gathered these past few months: Kids are more likely to retain Pokemon-related information than the sight words from kindergarten. Kids could watch a continuous loop of Sponge Bob for an eternity—never once pausing to engage in meaningful conversation with a parent. Kids can get by with one bath a week if they frequent a chlorinated swimming pool. Kids positively DON’T CARE how fricking cold the water from the hose is when it’s connected to a Slip n’ Slide. Kids will eat S’Mores till they EXPLODE. Kids will kiss worms, frogs and taste the dog—just because.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (summing up the summer).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Bad Mood Munchers

Forever, it seems, my children have brought me newly created pieces of wonderment to ogle—eager for both praise and encouragement for their Picasso-esque efforts. I’d like to hope that I’ve always been mindful of their feelings as they bestow upon me their most prized offerings on the planet. It could be a self-portrait destined for the refrigerator, a dachshund or a duck, lovingly wrought from a dollop of Play-Doh, or an

impressive rendering of a dinosaur, hewn from a large and unwieldy sheet of poster board.

Likewise, I’ve been called upon to admire masterpieces that are nothing short of remarkable—like the tiny box turtle one of my progenies recently fashioned from an empty Nerds box, the Rapunzel-inspired 3-D tower (with a working drawbridge!) she made from a mere sheet of paper and a bit of tape and string, or the “songbird” she ingeniously crafted from an acorn and a couple of feathers harvested from the back yard, “…because I wanted a pet bird, Mom, to live in the birdcage Grandma gave us.”

Indeed, these are delicate matters and it is imperative that I handle the psyches of my fledgling artists with the utmost of care and sensitivity. God forbid I fail to ooh

and aah appropriately—providing that much anticipated glowing review of a certain someone’s work, or that I make the colossal error of misidentifying a beloved nugget of whateverness, placed in my hands for immediate appraisal. “It’s a…….malamute with three heads, right?”

Sometimes it’s best to simply shut up and wait for my brood to inadvertently tell me what this or that mystery item is, so that screw ups are minimal. Thankfully, the bulk of what comes home from school (i.e. that which hails from Mrs. Pagano’s exceedingly wonderful art class) is readily identifiable. Good thing.

Thus far in their academic journey Thing One and Thing Two have proffered the most endearing set of polar bears imaginable, some chunky caterpillars that I adore completely, a Canada goose whose precious neck has since been repaired, a robin redbreast that surely summoned the spring, a handsome set of Italian frescos that rendered me utterly speechless and a handful of gloriously ornate vessels for storing jewelry and whatnot—etched abundantly with love.

All I ever managed to churn out as a grade-schooler was a bunch of stupid ashtrays (which, by today’s standards, would be deemed slightly appalling). Oh, and a handful of dreadfully unimaginative pot-like thingies and a deranged-looking papier-mache rabbit for which I am hard pressed—even now—to suggest a legitimate purpose. Further, there was an embarrassment of highly unremarkable, kiln-fired blobs of clay I remember hauling home to join my shrine to bad art. At least my kids’ creations possess irrefutable aesthetic value if not a preponderance of practicality. Plus, I know what the stuff is—with the exception of the Bad Mood Munchers.

That said, I reached into their backpacks not long ago expecting to discover yet another pair of entities to marvel instantaneously. Instead I found two fist-sized, lumps of hardened clay—ones that were slathered profusely with vibrant blotches of color and warped and mangled beyond all recognition—absolutely reveling in the quality of nebulousness. But as I examined each mass a bit more closely, I began to discern a face of sorts—a distorted rage-filled visage with deep-set eyes that seemed to pierce my very soul, a fearsome set of eyebrows that I couldn’t help but trace with my finger and a maw that would forever remain agape, likely for the purpose of swallowing smallish children whole. In a word, it was hideous and begged the question, “What on earth IS it?”

“It’s Angry Man, Mom. My Bad Mood Muncher. Isn’t he AWESOME?! And look, I made him a castle to live in!” Thing Two crowed with delight.

As I stood in stunned silence, her cohort informed me that her infinitely weirdish clay creation had been dubbed Steve, which stumped me perhaps more than anything.

Steve?! Who names a monstrosity like THAT ‘Steve’ for crying out loud?! What’s it for, anyway?” I felt driven to ask.

“It’s for when I get angry, Mom. I’m supposed to find some paper and write down what I’m mad about then twist the paper and try to tear it in half, which uses up A LOT of energy and helps get my anger out. If I’m still angry after I try (and fail) to tear the twisted paper, I have to open it up and calmly shred it into little pieces. Then I put the pieces in his castle thingie and he EATS them. Then my bad mood is GONE! Isn’t that entirely kewl?!”

Well after being enlightened on the subject, I had to admit the idea of defusing anger was slightly brilliant. And as art projects go, it was probably wicked fun besides. That said, I now want a Bad Mood Muncher to call my very own—one that promises to devour all that I find completely irksome on this planet.

Indeed, I’m quite sure I could feed the beast with the best of them.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (fishing bits of paper from Angry Man’s mouth—some of which was twisted unmercifully, meticulously piecing the scraps together and, stupidly, reading the wrath-filled messages contained therein).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, Refrigerator Art, School Schmool, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Dining with Heathens (Continued)…

(Please recall, if you will, that my motley crew and I happened to be dining in a rather swank establishment, where I was appalled YET AGAIN by the uncouth nature of mealtime discussions). That said, shock value rules…

“Mom, Taylor needs you in the bathroom.”

“Whatdaya mean she needs me?”

“You know, Mom. She neeeeeeeeds you. Plus she said the toilet might overflow.”

Of course my mind played worst case scenario (as it does so capably), racing forward to the hideous spectacle we’d become should such a foul catastrophe actually occur. I pictured the crowd, agape and aghast, their satiny napkins clutched in horror, silverware and China clinking and clanking as patrons pushed and shoved to escape the river of repulsiveness snaking its way across the floor where we dined.

Fortunately, it wasn’t our day to be a spectacle. I mumbled a small prayer of thanks into the folds of my napkin upon my return from the restroom. Yet another crisis averted. But the boorish banter at the dinner table continued.

“Dad, Mom took us to see the coolest thing this morning before we got on the bus! It was a DEAD BIRD! A DEAD BABY BIRD! I wanted to touch it, but she wouldn’t let me so I just poked it with a piece of grass. I even blew it a kiss! I could see its little beak and grayish feathers and everything! It was SO cool! Jack tried to eat it, you know. Mom said he rolled around in it later—which is just plain gross. Why do dogs do that anyway?”

Of course, this handily surpassed another mealtime discussion we had had about dog poo in recent months. “Dad, Jack made a little sculpture with his poop today! I call it the Leaning Tower of Poop! I told my art teacher what he did and she laughed so hard she couldn’t breathe. It was SO funny! Mom should really take you to see it before it tips over. It’s like a real tower you know.”

Prior to that, the worm discourse had comfortably held the top spot. “Dad, I’m saving every little wormy I find outside,” one of my weirdish children announced with pride as she delved into a bowl of spaghetti. (Gag me!)

“They’re part of my special collection,” she added. “Just like my rocks (Lord, how could we forget her dear rocks?!). So I’ve started putting my wormies in a big bucket in the garage. It’s their worm bed, Dad.”

“And guess what,” her partner in weirdness chimed in. “One of those guys pooped in my hand and it was DIARRHEA! Ewwwww!”

Like I said, I’m often appalled by that which is deemed newsworthy at the dinner table. Indeed, shock value rules—now and forever.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Kid-Speak, Meat & Potatoes, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Dining with Heathens…

As a general rule, I am appalled by the uncouth nature of the discussions that waft over our dinner table each evening, filling our house with the familiar stench of gaucheness. Last Thursday was no exception. Mind you, my husband and I were dining at a rather swank establishment, living in abject fear that one or both of our heathens would say or do something that would mortify us beyond comprehension.

Not that we’d be surprised.

“Mom, these carrots taste like the inside of a shoe.” Oy! Thank God the waitress had already flitted back to her lair by the time that snippet of speech tumbled forth for the whole fricking world to hear. Out of earshot, as it were. Ostensibly, anyway. I surmised that Grandma and Grandpa, who were also present at said grand and glorious soiree, would then call into question what we had been teaching our dear charges for the past nine years, specifically with regard to table manners (or the lack thereof). But apparently, they remembered well what it was like to be embarrassed by a brood of tactless children—one of whom happened to be me.

“Honey, is that a nice thing to say?! How on earth would you know what the inside of a shoe tastes like anyway?” I scolded, swallowing a melon-sized chortle and glancing around to see if anyone had heard the carrot comment or, worse yet, had detected my shameful amusement with the whole affair.

“I licked Daddy’s shoe once and that’s EXACTLY what these carrots taste like,” she spat, unleashing her inner-food critic upon us all.

Needless to say, at this point in the discussion I fell silent—both stunned and disturbed by the information I had been supplied, as well as indescribably mortified by its implications. I mean, what do you say to a child who has admitted to having tasted a shoe?! Much less, the INSIDE of a shoe?!

I’ve got nothing for that. Zilch. Nada. No pat little responses exist in my repertoire of snappy parental comebacks for such an inane remark.

So we moved on—to the next set of things for which I was unprepared.

To be continued…

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Kid-Speak, Meat & Potatoes, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Remembering when…I used to stress about how my kids might malign me at school as second graders (i.e. how they’d tell all regarding our gloriously dysfunctional family and household). I’ve since mellowed on the matter, which is good, methinks.

My kids send me into a panic for lots of reasons these days—like when they hurl their smallish bodies into oblivion, when they careen out of control on those sinfully precarious scooters, or when they giggle uncontrollably while stuffing their mouths as full as humanly possible with marshmallows or macaroni—as if imitating a ravenous chipmunk were the least bit amusing. But mostly, I live in fear of what my dandies will say in school as a matter of course—the telling bit of detail that will raise as many flags as eyebrows in the teacher’s lounge this year. More specifically, it’s the completely spontaneous and utterly uncensored snippets of speech that worry me to the point of distraction—The Full Monty regarding the glut of dysfunction present in our home.

And now that the let’s-get-to-know-our-classmates phase of school has begun in earnest, my trepidation has grown to a level roughly three times what it was just a few short months ago—when I stressed over what drivel Seek and Destroy might be inclined share with fellow camp-goers, instructors and swimming chums. At least in those venues, I could present my side of the story, if not defend my ineptitude as a parent.

Quite literally, I cringe when I think of the boundless opportunities for embarrassment and shame (mine, of course) that exist from the moment my charges make landfall in their classrooms till the moment they return home. During Show & Tell (if second-graders still enjoy such a glorious activity), my gals are likely to produce a fistful of worms or the petrified wad of chewing gum that together they harvested from the bleachers at Coach I’s basketball camp this past summer. A treasured memento for certain, along with the photo of a dashing, 20-something-ish coach they both vowed to marry “…when I get big, Mom.”

Likewise, I want to crawl under a rock when I imagine the pall that will undoubtedly be cast over their teachers upon learning that my dear children are more than just a little familiar with Jeff Dunham’s stand-up routine and the irreverent crew of puppet people he brings to life on stage. Or that I once laundered 74 pairs of underpants in one day (we counted). Or that all who reside under my roof believe that ketchup is an actual food group and Bruster’s ice cream, the nectar of the gods—qualifying as a legitimate meal in all 50 states. Or that my heathens pay homage each night to Walter, the Farting Dog, an inflatable replica of a beloved fictional character, now suspended from their bedroom ceiling, compliments of Betsy at Otto’s Bookstore. Or that I’ve fed my brood dinner in the bathtub more than once—to compensate for my less-than-stellar (read: abysmal) performance in the getting-to-bed-on-time arena.

I shudder also to think of the shock and horror my blithesome bunch might engender in the cafeteria should they inadvertently quote Dunham’s Peanut, Jose Jalapeno or (Heaven forbid!) WALTER if they suddenly felt the compelling desire to entertain the troops. Worse yet, they could repeat with remarkable accuracy each and every syllable of what I shouldn’t have said while shrieking at the dog who had just gnawed an entire leg off a plastic cow—and before that, a plastic dinosaur—and before that, a plastic pig.

What’s more, I envision stunned silence (followed by riotous laughter) when one or both shoot a hand in the air, eagerly volunteering the word “poop” as a perfect example of a palindrome. Or the circus which would ensue upon their use of the word “pathetic” in a sentence. “My mommy thinks President Bush is pathetic.” It’s only a matter of time before that gem of commentary bubbles to the surface, fueling all sorts of classroom discussions—both welcome and not-so-welcome. (Maybe I should just apologize now or forever hold my cynicism at the dinner table).

There’s no doubt about it; dysfunction flourishes here in this household. But perhaps it is decidedly relative. To borrow from my husband’s vat of uncannily accurate insights about the world at large, “Every house has the same discussion and every family’s weirdness is its own normalcy.”

There is some comfort in that, I suppose. Then again, the man thinks whistling for cats, as well as children, is normal.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.notesfromplanetmom.com.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Kid-Speak, School Schmool, Vat of Complete Irreverence